Gillingham chairman Paul Scally delivers his latest set of programme notes.
Good afternoon everybody and welcome to the MEMS Priestfield Stadium for today’s Sky Bet League One fixture against play-off hopefuls Southend United.
I’d like to extend that welcome to Southend chairman Ron Martin, the club’s directors, Phil Brown, his management team, players and supporters who have made the short journey to Medway from Essex.
It seems only yesterday that we were heading through the Dartford Tunnel en route to Southend for our first two games of the 2016/17 season. The performances we delivered in those matches, both of which resulted in 3-1 victories, were among the best of the campaign. Given the additions we’ve made to the squad since then, not to mention those who missed the two games through injury but have subsequently returned to fitness, I am confident that we can claim our third victory over today’s visitors this afternoon.
On that note, I am delighted to welcome defender Zesh Rehman and midfielder Ollie Muldoon to the MEMS Priestfield Stadium. Zesh has played in England’s top three divisions during his career, received a number of international caps and adds to the experience within the dressing room.
Ollie joined the club on Tuesday night, just in time to be named on the bench for our game against AFC Wimbledon. He previously played on loan here towards the end of the 2014/15 season, and impressed while on trial with us at the start of the month. Those supporters who attended our recent friendly against Belgian side Patro Eisden Maasmechelen at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium will have seen him score a spectacular goal from distance, which is just a taster of what he is capable of. I wish both of them the best for the coming weeks, and have little doubt that they will contribute plenty between now and our final game of the regular season against Northampton Town.
These arrivals strengthen the squad even further as we enter the final two months of the season. The mood in and around the first team remains extremely positive, focused and determined, which is always encouraging to see. We will only progress up the Sky Bet League One table if we remain united as one.
Without wishing to sound like I’m repeating myself, I again thought our performance on Tuesday night against AFC Wimbledon was worthy of being rewarded with all three points.
Throughout the game, our attacking play was creative, unpredictable and threatening. On another evening, we could have scored three, maybe even four or five. Josh Wright continues to be a threat in and around the opposition box – his scoring record this season is a fantastic personal achievement. I really enjoyed watching Bradley Dack on Tuesday night, too. Everybody knows what an incredible talent he is – he’s the reigning League One Player of the Year, remember - and he was a constant menace. The Dons defence struggled to cope against him, and I’m sure Southend’s players won’t be looking forward to facing him this afternoon.
Of course, football isn’t just about individuals, and our collective desire and passion was clear for everybody to see on Tuesday evening. We all know that, between now and April 30, the players will face obstacles and challenges, but if we stay strong in the face of adversity, we will be stronger for it.
On that note, I’d like to wish Bradley Garmston all the best in his recovery after he suffered a hamstring injury on Tuesday night. He is a talented player with a great attitude, and those inside the stadium will have no doubt shared his frustration and pain when he was taken off, just weeks after he returned from a similar injury. As I have written in my notes throughout the season, we will offer any player needing treatment all the support and access to the best facilities going during their rehabilitation.
After this afternoon’s game, we will have just six home matches left this season. The first two of those come in the space of three days early next month, as promotion-chasing Scunthorpe United and Bolton Wanderers visit ME7 on March 11 and 14 respectively. Our ever-popular Kids 4 A Quid promotion returns for the Scunthorpe game, so I hope supporters take advantage of our £1 under-18s’ tickets by bringing as many young family members and friends to this fixture as possible. This match is also the final Category B game of the season, so those season ticket holders who are yet to redeem their vouchers can bring two guests along free of charge to this game.
And just like this afternoon’s visitors to the MEMS Priestfield Stadium, we’re expecting a large following from Bolton for their first visit here since 2000. It would be great to get as many Gills fans inside the stadium to generate as much noise as possible and encourage the players on against one of the division’s best teams.
After selling out our Pie & Mash evening against AFC Wimbledon, we’ll be hosting a Build Your Own Burger Night against Bolton. Costing just £35+VAT, or £15+VAT for any season ticket holder wishing to upgrade, this is another exciting pre-match meal package being offered by the club’s excellent commercial team. These initiatives, combined with the hard work of our dedicated events department, continue to provide crucial revenue streams for the club.
Finally, positive negotiations between us and Swindon Town mean that Gills fans can now buy tickets for Tuesday’s crucial away game on the gate at the County Ground. As it stands before today’s fixtures, this game is a true six-pointer, and the level of away support could prove a crucial factor in the result.
Ady, the coaching staff and our players need your support throughout this afternoon’s game – let’s raise the roof and help them in their quest to get the three points come 4.50pm.
Up the Gills!
Paul D P Scally